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Sep/12

27

Berry Updates-Year Three Summary

The Final Year of Research

This year we experienced out first real production from the berries. several varieties produced well, while several others did not produce well at all. The less productive varieties where the same varieties that froze back to the ground last winter. Some varieties produced a late crop in September, but these were hurt this year by a lack of water – our irrigation went off August 2, about a month earlier than usual. We did have a couple of rains later in the season, but it wasn’t enough and the berries clearly suffered from the stress caused by  lack of water.

The link below takes you to the embedded data table where we tracked all of the harvest from the last three years. Each variety was trapped in each harvest was recorded. Also we took several measurements of berry size by counting the number of berries required to fill Half pint container. Please note that the link below contains a spreadsheet with two separate sheets one she is for the quantity harvested, the other sheet is for the berry sizes.

View Berry research data tables

Summary of Findings

Overall one of the biggest overall conclusions was the importance of frost hardy varieties for our area. Even in the mild winter of 2011 – 2012, several varieties froze to the ground greatly reducing the following years harvest. Another important conclusion from the commercial harvesting perspective, is that blackberries are much easier to pick than raspberries. The thornless BlackBerry varieties we grew were exceptionally easy to deal with and harvest off of. In addition, the consistently large berry size of the BlackBerries meant that filling pints of berries went much more quickly. As I add to the Berry patch I plan to plant mostly BlackBerries from this point on.

The Berry Varieties – Observations & Results

Freeze Sensitivity

The following varieties have frozen back to the ground each winter. These berries produce a fall crop for us, but it comes late enough that freeze threatens it – the best crop is the main summer crop which is borne on the canes from the previous year. When the canes freeze back to the ground, we don’t get this crop. For this reason, I would be hesitant to plant more of these varieties. The blackberry varieties produced incredibly long canes, 12-18 ft. ties these up was a lot of work, in the future i’m going to trim the last 1/3-1/2 of the length which died back anyway.
  • Heritage Everbearing
  • Polana Everbearing
The following varieties showed little or no cane die bak, and produced a stronger crop for us
  • Killarny Red Raspberry
  • Triple Crown thornless Blackberry (very long canes, ends died back)
  • Chester Thornfree Blackberry (very long canes, even more died back)
  • Encore Summer Fruiting Raspberry
  • Nova Summer Fruiting Raspberry
  • Bristol Summer Fruiting Black Raspberry
  • Encore Summer Fruiting Raspberry
  • Nova Summer Fruiting Raspberry

Size and Ease of Picking

Picking berries is hard work, even with the plants tied up on trellises, picking involves plenty of hunting through thorny canes. The reward is a delicious crop, but for the farm to profit, it also needs to be quick enough to pick that it pays to hire someone to pick it.

The raspberries were generally small and it took an average of 109 raspberries to fill a 6 oz container. The blackberries were consistently larger, with the smallest blackberry matching the largest raspberry. It took an average of only 41 blackberries to fill a 6 oz container. In addition, the thornless blackberries were truly thorn free, almost soft to the touch. they were a pleasure to work in, for all stages of production – pruning, trellising and harvest. Unless the market becomes saturated, I would plant these thornless blackberries over any of the other berries. Chester stands out as the biggest producer in out trials. On the raspberry side, Kilarny was the clear winner, producing early and over a long period with large berry size. Bristol, the only black raspberry in our trial, was also a large producer, and although the berries were small on average, they were borne in exposed clusters, making them a bit easier to harvest.

Final Pictures

These pictures show the drought damage on some of the berries this year.

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